HOOPS with MWEMBE KAONA
THIS yearâ€™s Zone Six Senior Basketball tournament will serve the dual-purpose of the 2015 All-Africa Games in Congo – Brazzaville and the African Nations Championships dubbed the Afro basket.
Chances are that Zambia could make history by qualifying to the final round.
Both the men and womenâ€™s teams been seeded in pool number two against African champions Angola, a reorganised South Africa and Zimbabwe.
At this stage the concern would be the defending champions being a hurdle but that is also where the advantage lies because in as far as the Afro basket is concerned, Angola are automatic finalists by virtue of being defending champions.
Menâ€™s senior coach Cuthbert Tembo is optimistic about his charges chances and it is clear that he is leaving no stone unturned by assembling the best possible team to go and fight for honours.
He has called to national duty three foreign based players – Chansa Mufwaume who plies his trade in China and the United States based duo of Given Kalipinde and Arthur Zulu.
All the three have indicated their availability with a the fourth call up Patson Siame, also based in the US, indicating that he would not be available as he will be academically tied up.
His womenâ€™s counterpart Bahati Ndumba is yet to make a statement of confidence but she too is aware of the challenge that lies ahead given that the zone has two strong womenâ€™s teams in defending champions Angola and 2013 hosts of the womenâ€™s finals Mozambique.
The two countries represented Africa at the just-ended FIBA World Championship for women in Turkey where the United States of America won.
I am confident this time around all plans falling in place a new champion from southern African will be crownedÂ when the play offs are held.
In recent times, Zambian basketball has shown remarkable improvement against its tough neighbours with the margin of results getting narrow with each game played. This is something that should give fans hope.
The players are determined and the coaches are focused.
The tournament in which Zambia is grouped will be played next monthend in Bulawayo and considering proximity getting there should not be a challenge what is needed now are the resources to meet financial obligations.
Zimbabwe has since the turn of the millennium switched from being tough opponents to near punch bags but FIBA referee Mweshi Munatamba describes encounters between the two men sides as always unpredictable.
It is with the women where there is a question mark but who knows? They may pull a surprise.
South Africa who were inactive at senior level for almost a decade will be back in contention and though they offer no real threat to the Copper Eagles their recent reorganisation points to the fact that they mean business.
In pool one, Mozambique are favourites with Botswana and Swaziland likely to push Lesotho to the bottom of the rug.
At the end of the day, this yearâ€™s Zone Six Senior Nations tournament promises thrills with a glittering end to crown it all.
HOOPS with MWEMBE KAONA